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Armchair Ponderings
What did students do before backpacks?

Guy Geller

Donuts on Cake

We lived a half a block from South Pike High School for 26 years. Many days I would see the evolution of heavy-laden backpacks hanging from students of various sizes; wondering what would happen to the backs of those kids when they reached my present age.

When I worked at Beacham Memorial Hospital, there was a young, maybe fifth grader who would walk across the parking lot, going to the Magnolia Clinic where his mother worked. One day I saw her and asked to weigh her son’s backpack. With a quizzical look on her face, she agreed. I asked Jr. to take off his pack and place it on the scale. Thirty-four pounds. I remember it well. I then asked him to jump on the scale, sixty-three pounds. Asking him what all he had in the backpack, he replied “my books and stuff.” I asked mom if she thought that was healthy, she shrugged her shoulders and said “they all do it!”

That got me to remember what we did in the dark ages of the mid-fifties. I can see the girls walking down the hallway, both arms wrapped around a stack of books unless she was the object of a boy’s interest, who offered to carry her books from her locker to class. Everyone had a full-length locker with a combination lock. You would generally walk to your locker once in the morning, at noon and once in the afternoon.There was none of this heavy lugging of books. If she had the slightest interest in the boy, she would readily hand him her books. If not, there would be excuses for not doing so.

My high school was divided into two courses. Academic, which was college preparatory, to which I belonged; and the industrial, which fostered shorthand and typing for the girls and different shops for the boys.The boys in my group would also offer to carry a girl’s books. That was quite a coup if she was a cheer-leader or majorette.

The boys would wrap a belt around their own books and throw them over their shoulder, holding on to the single strap. That was really cool! The college-prep guys had a couple of additional books. Trig and something else that I have never used since. But they were not hunched over, like a little woodsman carrying a faggot of limbs for his fire.

Apparently, this has become a concern to others. Supposed backpack pros, have come up with a formula; three pounds per every pound of body weight. Still back packs weigh between twenty and thirty pounds. Generally, during examined cases, the school bag was heavier than the recommendation of the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate. Backpacks should not exceed fifteen percent of body weight!

This should be a worthwhile project for someone. At almost 88 I am not prepared to joust at this quixotic windmill of overweight backpacks. Who will take it on?

During a lunch conversation with another couple, this topic expanded to possible damaged hearing of students based on the high volume of car radios in a confined space. Should that be a valid concern? Old folks may be able to identify potential problems, can they do anything to go against a modern trend?

I once complained about boys piercing their ears and the girls with tattoos. I can see that did not do much good. I once said, “you were born with a beautiful body, why do you want to mess it up?” That was answered with laughs for being “ridiculous.”

Maybe it’s time for me to put my “ponderings” out to pasture.

Donuts on Cake
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